(Editor's Note: League Weekend correspondents Meghan Wolff and Corbin Hosler contributed to this report.)
As the calendar turns to March, the Kaldheim Championship comes into focus and the fresh-off-the-tables February Kaldheim League Weekend gives us some pointers to the decks and players we'll be drawn to at the end of the month.
For starters, it was a big weekend for only a handful of players as the Standard format left the door open for a wide range of decks and most players—even the league leaders—ended with a literally average finish around five or six wins. Here's who had the biggest records on the weekend:
- William Jensen made waves with a 9-2 record as the best across the MPL.
- Both Lee Shi Tian and Ondřej Stráský netted a 8-3 finishes for February.
- Rivals Eli Kassis and Yuta Takahashi both earned the best finishes for their league: 8-3.
Overall, with the leads those at the top had already in each league combined with middle-of-the-road performances across most players, standings didn't get the shakeups some were hoping—and playing— for. Before we get into how of the weekend, here's what our MPL and Rivals players brought to battle:
Naya Adventures was the most-played deck in both Leagues, with a total of fifteen players. Adventures was also the weapon of choice for eight more who preferred the two-color Gruul approach, and a further five who went Temur. Aggro was also strongly represented, with eleven Mono-White, and eight Mono-Red players. And, as usual, there were plenty of dissenting voices, with eight archetypes championed by just a single player.
Let's see what happened.
The Magic Pro League
In the MPL, the best performance came from a top player with a top deck.
William Jensen took this Naya Adventures list to an outstanding 9-2 record on the weekend:
Jensen's terrific run was timely, since he's spent the first half of the season in the lower reaches of the MPL. This performance takes him into the top half into position for a slot in the MPL Gauntlet. As for the deck itself, like teammates Eli Kassis and Reid Duke, Jensen's list features no
This list can lead to some really fun game-enders with
Just behind Jensen, with excellent 8-3 records on the weekend, were Ondřej Stráský and Lee Shi Tian, showcasing two decks with very different approaches to the metagame:
Along with Brad Nelson and Seth Manfield, Stráský brought Sultai Control, which featured plenty of Kaldheim action:
In his battle against Jean-Emmanuel Depraz, however, it was a Zendikar Rising contribution that turned things around:
As for Lee, he found League weekends challenging so far, at least as far as his body clock is concerned. It's good to see that he figured out how to get the best out of himself in these middle-of-the-night challenges.
"First, I wanted to pick a deck I will not time out with playing late at night so it was going to be something fast," Lee said. "I narrowed it down to Mono-White, Mono-Red and Cycling. I expected the meta to be Adventure-based, which means red is not as good as it looks. Between White and Cycling I think Cycling is better against White and Adventure decks, so I played Cycling."
Stráský now enters the top four in MPL standings, which comes with a seat at the World Championship if he holds onto his place, while Lee still has a lot of work to do down the stretch if he wants to stay in the MPL next season.
As the weekend closed out, it was MPL standings leaders from the start of the weekend Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa and Gabriel Nassif going at it. Here's the end of game one:
But in a match that could be pivotal when the points are finally tallied, Nassif came roaring back:
So where does that leave the MPL standings? Damo da Rosa maintains his lead after a 6-5 weekend performance, but that lead is still just a single point over Gabriel Nassif. Two points further back are the Sultai Control players Brad Nelson and Stráský, and then there's a three-point gap back to Duke, who had another solid weekend to move him up from eighth to fifth place in the standing. With the Kaldheim Championship up next, the top four are in prime position to keep the chasing pack at bay with the that gap between fourth and fifth places.
The Magic Rivals League
Over in the Rivals League, the best records came from Eli Kassis and Yuta Takahashi.
Both players went with the Temur flavor of Adventures. Both finished 8-3 for the weekend, and Takahashi gained seven places for the weekend.
As for Kassis, he played the same 75 cards as Jensen did over in the MPL. Given their performance, and the 7-4 record of Reid Duke, this was clearly one of the big successes of the weekend. That said, Kassis nearly didn't play the Naya Adventures list at all.
"Our team was split in two directions," he explained. "We had Naya Adventures because we liked Gruul's position, but wanted to trump the mirrors with some
It certainly did. Here he is, finishing off Stanislav Cifka in a match that, just like Da Rosa and Nassif, featured the top two players in their league:
The updated Rivals League standings show just how tight the league is. Kassis and Cifka share the lead, but players down to No. 17 in the standings are within four points of the Top 4, and that's where the seats for the World Championship kick in.
Amongst those in that scrum are Chris Botelho and Thoralf Severin, both of whom had excellent seven-win weekends. Both also brought Adventures to the table:
Something else that both players have in common is that they're determined to remember that the game is meant to be fun. That isn't always possible when so much is on the line, so this speaks for itself:
It's a pretty good sign that a deck is really fun when five hours after the end of a six hour tournament you're failing to convince yourself to stop jamming ladder games and go to sleep.— Chris Botelho (@CBotelhoMagic) February 28, 2021
The Beats of the Weekend
Of course, it's a lot easier to have fun when you're winning and, inevitably, there were assorted tales of wheels coming off in both Leagues. In the Rivals League, it was Bernardo Santos and Luis Scott-Vargas who suffered the steepest reversals of fortune. Neither Gruul Adventures (Santos) nor Mono-Red Aggro (Scott-Vargas) got the job done for them as they slid with 3-8 records on the weekend. While that dropped them down the leaderboard, their previous successes mean they remain solidly in the MPL Gauntlet mix, and there's still time to turn the tide.
In the MPL, 3-8 records also came to Seth Manfield (Sultai Control), Jean-Emmanuel Depraz (Mono-White Aggro), and Shota Yasooka (Rakdos Sacrifice). Unfortunately for Martin Jůza, that was still three more match wins than his Mono-Red Aggro list recorded. It's a feature of League play that there's no such thing as "0-2 drop" meaning some real mental tax accrued as the losses kept piling up. Jůza dropped eight places to No. 13, meaning a possible date with the Rivals Gauntlet.
That 0-11 disaster anecdotally skewed things heavily against Mono-Red in the battle of the Aggro decks. Lots of players showed up on Mono-Red and Mono-White, but Mono-White outperformed its Mono-Red counterpart throughout the weekend. The red decks were hampered by both control decks coming prepared for an aggressive field, and by the abundance of Naya decks that are a challenging matchup for aggro.
Overall, Standard is still wide open with no definitive best deck. The field was a mix of old standbys such as Andrea Mengucci playing the beloved "Esperone"
Instead, players in both leagues were largely clustered in the five to six wins range, with seven or eight being considered a breakout performance. If you're looking for a clear answer for your next Standard choice, you probably didn't get one. Perhaps the overall win rates might help?
|Four-Color Doom Foretold
But as we close out another League Weekend, there's no doubt that the Sultai Control deck has added some very powerful moments to Standard. Let's finish with Seth Manfield doing incredible things with an
With the Kaldheim Championship just around the corner—broadcasting live at twitch.tv/magic March 26–28—it's not just the MPL and Rivals Leagues points that are up for grabs: "the best Standard deck" is open to all to play for.